Micro-organisms have developed systems to adapt to sudden changes in the environment. Here we describe the response of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to osmotic stress. A drop in the water activity (aw) of the medium following the addition of NaCl led to an immediate shrinkage of the cells. During the 2 h following the osmotic shock the cells partially restored their cell volume. This process depended on active protein synthesis. During the recovery period the cells accumulated glycerol intracellularly as a compatible solute and very little glycerol was leaking out of the cell. We have investigated in more detail the enzymes of glycerol metabolism and found that only the cytoplasmic glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase was strongly induced. The level of induction was dependent on the yeast strain used and the degree of osmotic stress. The synthesis of cytoplasmic glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase is also regulated by glucose repression. Using mutants defective in glucose repression (hxk2 delta), or derepression (snf1 delta), and with invertase as a marker enzyme, we show that glucose repression and the osmotic-stress response system regulate glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase synthesis independently. We infer that specific control mechanisms sense the osmotic situation of the cell and induce responses such as the production and retention of glycerol.
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